Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Martha and Mormons.

So I got all your comments about me doing personal blog posts and
I seriously, seriously, seriously appreciate them. 
I agree with the commenters that suggested to keep the personal stuff still design related.  I definitely don't want this to be some sort of journal where i tell you things like, oh say, how happy I was last night when Ali chose Roberto (and how hilarious it was that Brian showed up to the finale party dressed as Chris Harrison, carrying red roses and did mock interviews with everyone in attendance).  
I'm sprinkling in some photos from a Martha Stewart Wedding shoot i did like 4 years ago.  It was one of my first jobs on my own.  Shot by Lucas Allen, i think.  Wondering why i chose these photos from this shoot? i'll give you a two word clue - Martha Stewart and Mormons. (er. 4 words)

Where to start, where to start...
I'll start with a frequent and lovely commenter 'Lashley''s astute observation/question that still fascinates me, too.

Why are there so many Mormon or Ex-Mormon Design bloggers?

I knew there were some, but it wasn't until I got a drink (i got a real drink, she got a non-drink, first clue) with one of them. We talked about blogs and design and after a couple of real drinks and non-drinks it came out that I was raised mormon.  She said, 'I knew it!' and i was like, huh?  from my blog?  Then she came out as an ex-mormon, too.  Then she went down the list of all the mormon or ex-mormon blogs that blew my mind and made me want to purchase a new mormon-dar because clearly i've spent too much time out of the game and can't detect anyone anymore.  
(i've been a heather armstrong fan for years and an often checker of the Neinie dialogues, but they are out and obvious, it was all the in the closet design blogs that surprised me)

So i did me a lot of thinkings.  hmmm...(tap finger to temple) Why Mormons?  and why blogs?
and here is what I came up with (i'm sure i'm not the first person to have these theories, but we all like to fancy ourselves astute, no?)

I'm about to speak in stereotypes for sake of well, making my point.  Sorry if I offend anyone.  
God invented stereotypes for a reason, right? 

Its no secret that Mormon's are productive (and reproductive) people.  I mean they built a HUGE religion (and is still the fastest growing) in less than 200 years.  Growing up Mormon I only saw my parents relax and rest on sundays - they were always working, playing, cooking, journaling, teaching piano lessons, doing yard work, yes, refinishing furniture, just a constant flow of 'getting things done'.  Likewise, I can't just watch a movie, i'll be sewing or mating socks or cleaning at the same time.  It's like if you have free hands you should be doing something with them. Being productive can be a bit of an addiction and it definitely creeps into the rest of our lives, so blogging makes total sense to me. 

  In my early twenties at one point I had 4 jobs - walking dogs on the upper east side 3 days a week, bar-tending on the LES 3 nights a week, working at Jonathan
Adler on the weekends and teaching piano lessons.  
Don't worry, i also prioritized plenty of time to get into trouble.  

And i'm not the only one who was raised like this.
So there are a lot of women out there who probably had kids early-ish (or me, who hasn't yet) and well, blogging is something they/we can do that feels productive, can potentially make money for our families and can be done from the home at any time.  And there is nobody controlling it, no limitations, no bosses - its productive but totally independent and 'ours'.

Oh, and heres' the other reason - we are raised as big journal-ers.  I have 10 journals filled from my childhood, so the idea of documenting your life is not weird, it actually comes super natural.  My parents felt it was really important to have us do it, and i'm sooooo glad I did.  I mean, re-reading my junior high stuff is priceless. 
 (Dear diary, Casey (by accident or maybe not!) touched my hand at the basketball game today. i love him.  Dear diary, i'm so white that  somebody told me today that i look like powder.  do i?)  

It's awesome to be able to go back  and read what i wrote at certain ages, and potentially understand and feel empathy for my future kids about stuff that we kinda forget as adults. and yes, past Emily, you did kinda look like powder.  and still do. thank god pale is back in (or so i keep telling myself). my teen years were R.O.U.G.H.

But why design blogs?
Hold on to your special underwear people, i'm about to rock your world. 

Mormons, in general have a lot of kids, and kids are expensive.  Continuing with the 'over-productive' story, there is a 'why buy when you can make' philosophy going on as well.  So while mormons in more urban settings may not have been like this, I knew a lot who grew up yes, canning fruits and vegetables (and tuna in our case, we lived in a coastal town), sewing clothes or deconstructing hand-me downs, quilting, crafting, gardening and thrifting.  My parents had 6 kids and were both teachers so we weren't billionaires.  We went to thrift stores LONG before it was cool.  

And I swear on the Book of Mormon, that is where I got a lot of my creativity and style.  We could buy whatever we wanted because back in the day thrift stores in Coos Bay did the whole, 'everything that fits in a brown paper bag for $5' thing.  and thus my addiction for vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry, ANYTHING began.  

Sure it was a secret, I didn't tell my friends when they begged to find out where I got my clothes.
(ok, begged might be an exaggeration, they probably just casually asked because  they were curious why as a 12 year old I dressed like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's or the kids from Sound of Music, oops still do)
So I was able to get creative with the clothes/tchochkes and furniture that I bought  
and I started repurposing at a very early age.  badly, might I add.

I knew I wasn't alone, but check this out:

Martha Stewart?  full of 'em.

When I started styling in New York I worked a lot for Martha (Marty, i called her) and the first time the elevators opened onto her notorious 9th floor, i could smell it/them and   I knew I wasn't alone.  It's everything from the way they dressed to the way they spoke (you know, the funny mormon language where they say 'feck' or 'fetch' instead of, well, you know)  to the diet cokes littered on all the desks, to the complete lack of hangovers - and everyone was just so unbelievably effing nice. 

Yes, folks, there are a lot of mormon and ex-mormons working for Martha Stewart.

Its like Home Ec Grad School.  It's the best of the best of DIY-ers, crafters, sewers, etc. 
Oh, me? I got my doctorate in decopauge.

And they/we all have blogs.   

Hey Geraldo, check out that expose`.

So on the Design Star last week i talked about being raised Mormon while they showed me doing bad crafts.  
Its almost as if how we are raised effects our lives forever, eh?

Next week on the show you'll see A LOT of my craftiness.  It is my favorite challenge BY FAR.  
Why? because it involves thrift store stuff that we can repurpose.  

hello, comfort zone i haven't seen you in a while.  


  1. Love your blog (started reading before DS)...
    Love the behind the scenes DS stuff too...
    but as an ex-mormon myself this has to be my favorite post to date-simply because we share the same productivity theory. It's almost impossible to sit still comfortably and do nothing. It's been ingrained in the brain - do, do, do, do and then do some more! Oh heck!

  2. Thanks anonymous #1. Its weird, right? i'm endlessly fascinated by the religion and the lifestyle around it.
    thanks soooooooo much for readings. seriously appreciated.

  3. E - You're awesome. I really think you nailed it. While I don't consider myself 'crafty' by any stretch of the imagination, I ALWAYS have things to do which I'm sure will cause the world to implode if I don't get them done. I'm a mom and a blogger and oh - I'm Mormon (but also a Democrat, which could be a contradiction... yes, Virginia, we DO exist.)


  4. As an ex-MSL employee and devoted blog follower who lives in a very mormon filled town -- I LOVED this post! So interesting and insightful.

  5. Aw shucks, I'm blushing. No one who's regularly been on television has ever called me lovely (or maybe it was my comments that are lovely? either way, I'm taking it). Thanks for answering my question! I went to a Denver blogger breakfast meet-up (organized by the wonderful Melanie of youaremyfave.com) a few months ago and was the only non-Mormon there. After I got past being the only one to order coffee, it was no big deal, but it definitely solidified the trend. I think your observations are spot-on. We all want something to own, create, and be proud of and if it fits within our "culture's" framework, all the better. I bet there's fun networking and friend-making too.

    Can't wait til next week's episode!

  6. I could use a little of this...does it rub off? Can I just hang around some mormom bloggers to increase my productivity?

    These images are beautiful. Thanks for sharing some of your story.

    (I too have to fold laundry while watching tv. Damn the DVR!)

  7. Great post, Emily. I'm wondering why I don't have that productivity Mormon Gene. Ben and Marilyn had it but it didn't get passed down to me. I have so much stuff I want to do but somehow not doing it seems like a better idea most of the time.

  8. This is one of your best blogs ever. Very personal, educational and not at all anti-Mormon. I learned a lot about you and Mormonism and it's all good.

  9. Hi Emily. I've been rooting for you from the first episode. Even though you lost the white box challenge, I could tell you were the most interesting designer. While your box was fairly empty, the others were mostly awful. Can't wait to see you repurpose some thriftstore stuff! That must have thrown your fancy competitors for a loop.

  10. My youngest son went to a co-op preschool in Lake Oswego, Oregon (go Oregon!!). I couldn't figure out why every one was sooo nice and sooo productive! It was great! As time went on I came to find that a lot of them were Mormon. I hate to generalize but that was my experiece. This Catholic girl learned some stuff!!

  11. Oh! I forgot to mention: when I lived in NYC, all of the interns for David Letterman were from BYU (because he knew they'd be productive and honest and stuff... kinda Martha Stewart-y). Anyway, he had a tradition of giving all the tickets for his St. Patrick's Day show to said interns to pass out at church. He wanted to stack the audience with people who weren't fall-down-drunk and belligerent. :) I, therefore, had a tradition of attending the Late Show taping every St. Patty's Day. It was awesome. I wonder if her still does that...?

  12. I grew up baptist, which in my opinion is by far the least creative religion in christianity.

    Maybe that's why I have no talent! I'm blaming Jerry Falwell for the paint color in my living room being a shade of tan that is a bit too green.

  13. I grew up in a Puritan family and lived for a summer with an industrious Mormon one. This makes vast amounts of sense.

    I am so looking forward to the next challenge. It looks like crazy fun.

  14. Fascinating and you have given me so much to think about! I did always wonder why so many design bloggers are mormon/ex-mormon. Makes total sense. You shared this in the most appropriate way!!!!!

  15. Thank you for this post. I'm a designer and blogger, and so is a friend of mine. We have had this conversation a couple times, asking each other - what's up with the Mormons? They are so good at design. It's made me sort of obsessed, and not just about the design and blogging. But also because they are so nice, they are so happy and friendly, they have cute kids and great husbands. What is it about this religion? Late one night I looked into Mormonism, actually having a tiny part of me curious about joining. I decided it wasn't for me, but there is so much more I'd like to know. Anyway, thanks again for the post, it's a good start to answering my questions.

  16. but you forgot the part about how all the Mormons support each other! When my son was up for Prom King he knew he wouldn't have a chance with "that Mormon kid" running (he's right...he lost). So, just think of all the networking Mormons do and supporting each other on the blogs and in the design world--fascinating. Hey! maybe bringing up this Mormon thing on national TV just might get you your own show (wink,wink)

    August 3, 2010 4:47 PM

  17. Emily! I was an avid reader pre-Design Star. I absolutely love all of your fabulous work :0) I grew up Catholic, the other religion with big families, I can't sew (sad) but I at least know how to feel guilty about it!

  18. I have been reading your blog every day since you started, and your writing keeps getting better and better. This was my favorite post because the insights were fascinating and new. Also, it was really neat to see (what I think was your) MSL work. What an impressive person you are!

  19. PS. Oh, now I see, yes the pics are from MS Weddings. You told us that.

  20. Ach, I couldn't read until I'd seen the episode, and the t.v. died, and I had to wait...but yay. I'm so glad you've started doing a hybrid design/personal tone here.

    Also, I'm happy you told me more about Morm bloggers. I've always wondered. Most of my favorite blogs are either def or probably Mormon. And I'm secretly obsessed with Mormons after we did our honeymoon in southern Utah.

  21. This is such an interesting topic! I had no idea there were so many Mormons in the blogsphere or in Martha Stewart's offices.

  22. You blended it in so nicely. If you bring in the pets, do it sparingly. Pets and babies can steal the show. You don't want them to do that. Poor antonio everyone wrote all the time about his pet and not his room. lol

  23. They don't call it the Bloggernacle for nothing. My blogger friends and I joke that Mormons are taking over the world, but really we are just jealous of their talent, beauty, creativity, and general awesomeness. They put my fellow Catholics to shame.

    I loved this post.

  24. Such a great post! You shared your experience and perspective so gracefully and honestly. Very interesting! I wish my religious upbringing had involved more crafty-industriousness and less tv watching. I'm trying to catch up now... You are so cute on Design Star! Hope you win!

  25. O.k. but why are they all addicted to Anthropologie? Every time I'm pursuing a new blog thats really crafty and cutsey I notice there is HUGE mention of Anthropologie and then sure enough a button to get a free book of Mormon on the side.

  26. Oh, okay...it all makes sense now. I've noticed that most of my favorites were LDS and now I know why. Aha! Great post and very fascinating.

  27. Goooood stuff! I love understaning people (and culture-snooping). I was all in the dark too about the lurking M's everywhere in blogland. {And by lurking I mean admirably crafting and resourcing, and in general being super nice people I wish I could be like (minus the no caffiene or alcohol, I definitely need a good cuppa joe to beat my hangover).} Love you on DS and here, can't wait to see the next episode! PS, your writing style is great, I'm going to make my future kids journal even if they don't want to. I'll make them sew too. Muhahahahha.


  28. I am mormon... and I blog... I also design, craft, quilt, sew, paint, build, network, volunteer, and cook... but not bake ;)wink... I 'm laughing right now because I honestly thought EVERYONE did!?! Thanks for the funny introspection and the nod to your childhood in such a kind respectful way.

    oh... and it's pretty funny to know MS studios is teaming with people just like me... no wonder I love to get MSLiving etc.

  29. Watch out...we're everywhere....

  30. This was a super fascinating post! Thanks for the education!

  31. Emily I have really enjoyed watching you this season on Design Star. You were a little girl in Coos Bay when I knew you. Your dad was my Bishop and my seminary teacher. I absolutely love your family! Your mom is one of the most amazing women I know. Best of luck to you and much success to you in the design world. Honestly, I was sad to hear that you have decided to leave the church, it has made you who you are. We've been voting for you, see you in the finals!

  32. You had me laughing my funny underwear off! I am proud to say I got that Mormon crafty what can I do with this gene. I just wish i had more time to cultivate it. it has come in handy though when I run out of the right bandages for patients.... now what can I use for a tourniquet... :)

  33. First, I discovered the awesomeness that is Design Star every season available on Hulu just a couple weeks ago. I'm already caught up to the current season. Do I feel bad for sitting inside during the summer to watch TV? Not one bit.

    Second, I was watching it tonight and my husband said, "I know which one is your favorite, that girl," as he pointed to you. True, true.

    Thirdly, I just discovered your blog and read the entire thing tonight. Time wasted? I think not.

    Fourth, I'm the Melanie that Lashley mentioned in her comment. I'm a design/lifestyle blogger and I'm Mormon. I've also contemplated this question since most of my fave design bloggers are Mormon. I liked your theories, especially the journaling idea. I also think a big factor is there is a high population of stay at home moms in Mormon culture so blogging is a hobby for them, something they can do at home and feel like they're making friends and being productive. A little break from the boredom of the everyday. Also, Relief Society crafting nights! Need I say more? I think I learned how to tole paint when I was like five because of RS.

  34. Ah! So funny. When watching Design Star early on, I thought "I bet she's Mormon." Then, while catching up tonight, you mentioned the industrious nature of your upbringing. Fantastic! And I love this post. So true about all the Mormon design blogs... and craft blogs... and motherhood blogs... and temple wedding blogs... and...
    I am an "ex-mormon" too but I am very proud of my industrious blood.
    I hope you won Design Star! You've been my favorite since day 1.

  35. Well, hello.

    Melanie just emailed me this post... I was also at the breakfast with Lashely, and thought I would throw in my two cents.

    First off, love those stereotypes. I grew up with my mom making all of my clothes (unless they were hand me downs), canning fruits, picking berries in the summer to make a years supply of homemade jam, and doing as much DIY stuff as possible.

    I often think of all the things my mom did for me and want so badly to do the same for my kids. I also am a blogger and although I would say I don't fit those stereotypes as much as I would like, I think they are very true. Thanks for writing this post, it's been fun to see comments from non-mormons and seeing their thoughts on us (mormons)! I also thought it was funny that someone wrote "morm bloggers" I've never shortened our name!

    I haven't watched Design Star but I am sure to do so now! Good luck on the show!

  36. p.s. I'm also from the Portland area, but I now live in Boulder, CO... I miss the great Northwest!

  37. Very insightful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a positive way. I still enjoy the productive attitude that was passed on to me from my mother. Go Mormons!

  38. Oh I just had so much fun reading this. I don't have cable and am very behind on my TV watching. Congrats.

    I had to comment b/c my father is an ex-mormon (kicked out after getting randy with a farmers daughter on a missing, oh and being an alcoholic was a no no). But I grew up in a very small town in Utah as the only non-mormon family. It was interesting to say the least. I think it does rub off on you because while my mom, not being mormon at all, harped continually on a woman can do whatever she wants out side of the house - here I am a stay at home mom refinishing furniture, sewing up a storm and ridiculously happy when canning fruit.

    I've tried to teach my husband how to spot a mormon. He's slowly honing his skills. He's fun to bring to bring to the giant family reunions as he's the only black guy perhaps a 500 square mile radius. No one knows what to do, for some reason this gives me such pleasure - is that wrong?

    Thanks for making me laugh, I enjoyed browsing at your beautiful work! CONGRATS!

  39. Great post!! I too noticed that most of the bloggers that i follow are Mormon. i admire their talents and commitment to family. I assumed that the church was encouraging blogging as a way to promote religion. I have become interested in Mormonism because of the blogs that i read.

  40. Fantastic! I think you are right about Mormons+blogs+design. To whatever degree your early mormonism contributed to the great style and wisdom you're sharing with the rest of us, I say good on it.

    I'm always glad to see when it can do something more productive than worry about inevitable legislation in CA (and across the rest of the country).

  41. Thank you for this post! And I'm so glad I found your blog and that you won!! Congratulations - you were my favorite! I interned at Martha Stewart a few summers when I was in college and I remember people saying "feck" and the diet coke and everyone being unusually without edge for NYC, but I didn't associate it with being Mormon! ; )

  42. As a fellow Ex-mo I totally knew you were or used to be Mormon from the first episode, weird how that works. I definitely grew up in a resourceful family (seven kids will do that to you I guess). After ten years of avoiding all those crafty things I've found myself sewing, gardening, canning and much more. I guess even when you leave the religion you can't leave your "ethnic heritage".

  43. My sister, Jordan (of Oh Happy Day) just sent me this post. It's so great!

    I've thought about this topic often. I think another factor is how strong the Graphic Design department is at BYU. It's amazing. I worked in design in NY for 8 years and I don't think I came across a decent design firm or ad agency or well-designed magazine that didn't employ mormons with a degree in graphic design from BYU. I see my fellow graduates doing successful things in social media all the time.

  44. I loved this post--I'm a first-time reader and practicing Mormon, btw. I was really impressed with how positive and kind you were in your assessment. It sounds a little cheesy, but thanks for being so nice. :-)

    And I must agree, this makes total sense. I feel like I'm always starting on some new project, just because that's how I was raised...I love seeing my pantry full of home-canned jars and my children sleeping under quilts I've made myself. It's nice to feel at the end of the day like I've made something useful and beautiful.

  45. Hey Emily, fun post, don't know who you are, never watch TV shows but saw this from a friend who tweeted it. Interesting to hear your thoughts on religion and design.

    I think you're a good writer, but please for the love of Pete left justify your content, it is soooooooo painful to read it all center justified like that. :)

  46. Love your blog. I lived in Salt Lake City for two years while in grad school. Can so totally relate to the creativity of Mormon women.

  47. I hear that this dude is Mormon.


  48. Just finished watching the last DS episode. Took me a while. Thank goodness for on demand internet viewing or I'd never get to see my favorite shows. Congratulations!!! I am so glad you won.

    I loved reading your thoughts. I am Mormon (still practicing) and it was interesting some of those things you were taught carried into later.

    I am, unfortunately, design and creativity challenged but still try to do the traditional Mormon things: sew, crochet, scrapbook, cook from my food storage, etc. You think if I weren't very good at any of it, I'd stop, but I try, try again. I'm hoping that my "weaknesses will become strengths" because I love all of that creative-type stuff and it is, of course, also due to that Mormon culture.

    I am not a very good writer either but I did start a blog recently, more for the journaling aspect than anything else.

    My husband needs to read this to understand me a little more. He always wonders why I can't just sit and watch a movie. You just gave me a little more insight into myself, thanks.

    Throw out some great design tips for us that are creativity and design challenged on your new show will you? I am excited to watch.



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